Jesiel pushes for clarity at hearing on school funding
Rep. Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) discussed school funding data and Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of education legislation during a House Appropriations Elementary & Secondary Education Committee hearing Monday.
Talking at length about Rauner's amendatory veto of SB444, a bill to fund 852 school districts, Jesiel wanted to know from Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Chief Financial Officer Robert Wolfe why, aside from the veto, ISBE was having difficulty getting the enrollment and enterprise numbers needed to distribute up to $350 million in funding.
“Is part of the problem also the issues this bill is addressing?” Jeisel asked.
“We can do the calculations without the language changes called for to the distributions in SB444; however, those calculations will not mirror what we believe to be the intent because these calculations in all the models that (we) worked on during last spring had adjustments in those models,” Wolfe said.
According to Wolfe, it is imperative that numbers are “clean” so adequacy target calculations are correct to determine what schools are in most need of funding. Evidence based funding is then based on a series of tests that identify the 97 school districts' figures in question that will inevitably determine the regions' funding for fiscal years 2018 and 2019.
Jesiel wanted to know that since the original bill passed in the House unanimously and it is likely to be overridden, why Wolfe couldn’t model on the assumption so the ISBE would be more prepared “to get that money out the door.”
“When we get the enrollment numbers we can do modeling under that assumption, however until something takes place and we get action and clarity on these calculations with the statutory language, we would be unable to distribute based upon changes that have not been enacted,” Wolfe said.
“You don’t have to wait for us to override this bill, you can model if this does in fact pass,” Jesiel said. “You have that information to be able to do that.”
She then wanted to know from ISBE Co-Director of Legislative Affairs Amanda Elliott why SB444 came under an amendatory veto.
“The governor’s office would have to speak to the rationale of why it was vetoed,” Elliott said, adding she could attempt to answer other questions regarding the Invest in Kids Act.
Jiesel said from her understanding in the Invest in Kids Act, the mechanics of the process was that unregistered schools go through a much more rigorous process of being approved.
“What would be the downside of including an unregistered school,” Jesiel asked.
Elliott said she was not sure if the state board was taking a position on the issue of rigorous approvals being considered a “downside.” She said the ISBE was asked to get the Department of Revenue a list of schools by December 2017 to determine their regional caps, but some schools could not be recognized as registered until this fiscal year.
“Schools that had never been registered may not have been eligible until year three of the program because you have to be registered for a full year,” Elliott explained.
After discussing the complicated matter, Jesiel thanked the ISBE officials for making the issue more clear.